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District works to increase access to mental health care for students in need

Anna Johnson

This year, the Hudson School District received a donation from The Butterfly Path, a nonprofit that works to increase access to mental health assistance. The donation allowed the district to fill gaps in its co-located mental health services program, which helps students who are uninsured or underinsured have access to mental health services, said Chief of Schools Officer Erin Schiltgen.

Though she said it's hard to define the impact this donation will have on individual students, Schiltgen said the donation had a big impact district-wide.

Erin Schiltgen"It really helped us cover a gap in equity across buildings in making sure that all of our buildings have access to this service," she said.

Co-located mental health care

Through this program, the district works with area mental health providers to provide therapy sessions for students at school. Hudson started the co-located mental health program in 2014, and began slowly expanding to more schools in the district. The Butterfly Path donation allowed the district to add co-located mental health care to Hudson Prairie, Houlton and River Crest elementary schools. Now every school in the district has co-located mental health care.

Schiltgen said about 80 students utilize the program. About 16 of those were added with three new schools.

Co-located mental health care serves students who might have a barrier to accessing mental health therapy outside of school.

"The purpose isn't to provide mental health therapy to all kids in school who need it," Schiltgen said, "But to provide it to students who have a barrier."

Schiltgen said many students deal with anxiety, or similar issues. The district works with mental health care professionals, who meet with students at school on a regular basis. The frequency depends on the needs of the child.

Schiltgen said this program is beneficial for student success.

"When students are healthy, they are better prepared to learn," she said, "and it increases positive outcomes for students when we can address all of their needs."

She said students are better able to succeed academically, socially and emotionally.

The district surveys parents once a year about the program. Schiltgen said 100% of the parents said the program had been helpful for their children.

The Butterfly Path

Anna Johnson started The Butterfly Path after losing her father to suicide.

"A few years ago, my dad and I created a butterfly garden at our house because butterflies have always been a symbol of my journey struggling with mental health," Johnson said. "I have him to thank along with everyone else who helped and continue to help with this organization.

"The Butterfly Path is here for people who don't know where to get resources, a gentle reminder that joy is out there. We are advocates for self-care and pledge to make a change in how people access that help that they need.

"The goal is to make resources and help accessible to anyone who needs it."

That, Johnson said, is where the Hudson School District came into the picture, and her organization was able to donate enough money to provide co-located mental health services at the last three school buildings that hadn't had this service. Now every school in the district has co-located mental health services available.

"This made our hearts full knowing that there are kiddos who are underinsured or uninsured get the help they need without families worrying about expenses," Johnson said. "Having gone through multiple therapy programs myself, I have understood the hardships people take on when trying to get help.

"We are really excited to continue partnering any way we can with the district."

Johnson said meanwhile, The Butterfly Path has worked on a Mental Health Fair and a gratitude project.

The Butterfly Path sells "Choose Happy" T-shirts. Johnson said 100% of the net proceeds go to assisting people in the community.

"Together as an organization and community, we are on the path to making a difference," she said.

Anyone interested in donating or finding out more can contact Schiltgen at schiltee//

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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